December 28, 2007
Suspension Recommended For Billing Misconduct
The Illinois Review Board has recommended a 30 day suspension of an attorney for billing misconduct. The attorney had trained as a nurse prior to attending law school and had been employed by a law firm as a nurse paralegal and later as an associate attorney. The misconduct came to light from the firm's review of files assigned to the attorney after she had left. While the review board expressed some concern about the quality of the evidence establishing the misconduct, it deferred to the hearing panel's findings:
"there were issues of credibility and issues as to the sufficiency of the Administrator’s proof. Evidence was presented relating to gaps within the preliminary searches undertaken by [law firm] personnel, prior to the more thorough, and multiple, searches by [the head of the law firm's information systems department] and his staff. Evidence was also presented to the Hearing Board as to various possible points at which a dictation tape might have been lost, a computer file saved under someone else’s name, or a completed work product misfiled or misplaced within the [law firm's] offices. Sargent’s capable attorneys presented these issues to the Hearing Board. The Hearing Board considered the evidence with great care, thoroughly analyzing the facts presented. While other conclusions were possible, the Hearing Board’s findings are not against the manifest weight of the evidence."
The Administrator had sought a one-year suspension. As I have had occasion to note in the past, in charges of billing misconduct, senior partners tend to get credibility issues resolved in their favor to a far greater degree than departed associates. This case seems to fit the pattern. (Mike Frisch)
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